“Do you ever dream?” Eames asks, breath ghosting smoke over Robert’s shoulders.
Robert glances back at him, red lips quirked in a frown, “Don’t you?”
“Do you ever wish things were different?” Robert says abruptly and tips the champagne flute back. It doesn’t even have liquor in it, it is orange juice from the bodega down the street, the same place that is starting to become too familiar. They’ll have to move on soon.
“Of course I do,” Eames replies, setting the paintbrush down, and thinks about Toronto for next month, ”Not all the time, though. Not everything.”
Robert’s hair is mussed with acrylic paints drying at the base and his eyes are insect black. He tips his chin forward in a shiver when Eames touches the base of his skull with a small rasp of fingernails. “Like what?” Robert asks, voice thick and hushed.
Eames presses his wet lips to the dry spirals of black and white sprawling across Robert’s shoulders. “There are some things I’d like to keep. Like knowing what you look like silhouetted by the Kyoto skyline. Like watching you strum guitars and cellos in the middle of the night,” Eames traces the arc of an unidentifiable smoke figure, the lines are all essentially meaningless.
“Like brushing my paints all over you, like how you shiver when you first step out of the shower. Like,” Eames says and thinks of Glasgow, perhaps, “knowing I’m utterly mad for being in love with you but unable to stop.”
Robert laughs, guiding Eames’ arms around his waist from behind and Eames can feel the wet paint on Robert’s back brushing his bare chest. “What about the part where we are being hunted by the private security of corporate executives?”
“Ah,” Eames says, “That, I could do without.”
“I thought so,” Robert says and leans out of the embrace to separate the congealing mess of paint. Eames draws his fingers down Robert’s spine, counting the knots. His spine is dry, striped with small horizontal lines from the base of his skull to the end of his back, where his pajama bottoms ride low. Eames is sure this is reality, a dream could not be quite this brilliant. “How are your arms?”
Robert shrugs and flexes his sun burnt biceps, “They’re alright, why? Did you want to paint on them?”
“It’s alright,” Eames says and buries his nose in Robert’s hair, crisp now with cobalt blue, “I haven’t done your chest yet or thighs. Actually, I think I'll do your chest first, your thighs are quite distracting.”
Robert laughs, turning to face Eames and pull him forward. He stops before their chests touch and leaves twin handprints on Eames’ chest but then smears the black and white into a swirl of gray. Robert’s hands are soft through the wet paint, guiding a steady pattern past Eames’ hip bones. Eames smiles at him, watching the paint twist into his chest hair. “What are you doing Robert?”
Robert grins devilishly, “I’m showing you what it feels like when you paint on my chest.”
“A great big tease?”
Robert draws his nails down in a scrape over Eames’ nipples, “Precisely.”
“In all fairness,” Eames says, catching Robert’s hands and turning their fingers together, “I usually use a paint brush.”
“Oh yeah, like the cool touch of a soft, wet object stroking my skin is any better,” Robert scoffs.
“What would you like for me to use instead?”
Robert smirks, insect eyes flaring, “Your tongue?”
Eames furrows his brow, “I don’t fancy eating paint, love.”
“I’ll give you something else to eat,” Robert says and then laughs into the kiss Eames initiates.
Within the first week of running, bundled in a Russian cottage, Eames learned that Robert falls asleep quickest fresh from the shower. Eames watches the water drain black and gray and Robert is clean again, sharp eyes drawn low with fatigue. He half-smiles at Eames in the bathroom and says, “I don’t wish things were different.”
Eames raises an eyebrow, “Even though I am a great big tease and we are being hunted by fairy-arsed corporate executives?”
Robert laughs and adds, “Even though your team mindfucked me.”
“Don’t say that,” Eames murmurs, looking away.
“No,” Robert steps toward him, skin wet and fresh, “Hey, that’s not what this is about. I meant that I like this life, I like moving every other week with you, the paint and that crappy cello, I like it. Fischer-Marrow meant nothing to me, they were all so untouchable and I was supposed to be them, that calculating and I hated it. I mean, maybe we met under strange circumstances, but that’s in the past now.”
Eames knows all of this already and so instead he dresses Robert for bed.
In Kiev, winter dawns over a shaking horizon and Eames sleeps through an earthquake. Robert sits in an armchair across the room, hands caught in a threadbare sweater, hands closed over a bottle of local vodka. Eames wakes up hours later, wakes up to Robert curled into an edge of the room with broken glass at his feet. The house is quiet and outside, people are sending their kids to school, calling insurance companies, blaring their car alarms.
The world is potent after a night of dreamless sleep and Eames snaps back into consciousness far quicker than he would like. Robert watches him wake up and lifts the bottle in a mimicry of celebration. Eames only glances at the clock before he’s stretching out his arms and legs.
“Don’t get up,” Robert warns.
Eames casts a glance around the room and then looks back at Robert, inspecting. “What happened?”
Robert lolls his head back in the chair. “There was an earthquake last night. It woke me but you slept through it.”
Eames kicks the blankets back to create an empty space where Robert’s body should be. Today is the anniversary of the death of Robert’s mother. “I’m so terribly sorry to have missed it,” he says but won’t ask about the bottle. “Are you wearing shoes?”
“Yes,” he says minutely.
“What about vodka?”
Robert holds the bottle out before him and turns it upside down, showing Eames the bottle is full and the bottle is closed. “It’s wearing me.”
Eames shifts on his side and the radiator behind Robert clicks and hums to life. “Come here, sweetheart.”
Robert stands slowly, long limbs unwinding into a rigid stance. The glass under his shoes crack over and over, echoing his slow steps, gaze leveled on Eames. He sits down the bottle at the bedside table with a loud thunk. Eames glances at the bottle only for an instant and sits up on his haunches to pull Robert’s shirt off. Robert watches it fall to the floor and Eames undoes his belt and his pants, pulling Robert onto the bed as the clothes fall behind him.
Robert kicks his shoes off in a lazy stretch and settles back into the sheets, watching Eames. He doesn’t say a thing but doesn’t protest as Eames pulls him into a hug, into the sheets. Eames says, “How bad was the earthquake?”
Robert shrugs and Eames starts kissing his shoulder blades, “Strong enough to rattle the walls, I guess. Regrettably, I don’t carry a Richter scale in my duffel.”
“We’ll buy one at the airport next time,” Eames says and he’s going for light hearted but Robert doesn’t smile.
“Where are we going next?” he asks and his voice cracks. Robert casts his eyes away and clears his throat, blinking rapidly.
Eames rests his forehead against Robert’s temple. “Where would you like to go, my love?”
“Away,” Robert says, “away.”
He says that every year.
La Serena feels horrid sometimes. Robert haunts the streets at night and carries Eames home after he overindulges in poker and whiskey. Eames spends most of their time in Chile drinking too much and pretending he isn’t mourning the death of his father, who was apparently, “just a fuckin’ coward.”
Eames has a few aspirin on the table beside him every morning after, aside a bottle of water and a clean towel. Robert sits on their balcony while Eames sleeps and counts the stars as they disappear with the light of dawn. Robert waits with the ancient ache inside him, sipping tea and curling his legs off the edge. Robert hates this city, the kids pick his pockets too often and Eames drinks himself into a stupor but he waits.
He remembers sitting at the edge of a grave when he was eleven and thinking he could never leave. Sitting on that plane and wanting nothing more than to run. The planes and the cargo ships and the trains all take them away from bounty hunters and corporeal attachments but the sky stands. Robert hates this city but he waits for Eames to stand off the grave.
The day comes, dawn isn’t even rising yet, Robert waited for it, Eames decides he shouldn’t go out that night. Out of his own volition and starved skin, he says, “I’m sick of playin’ poker with those bastards.”
Robert kisses him on the mouth and says, “Where do you want to go next?”
Eames cards his clean hands through Robert’s hair, “East.”
He leaves the poker chip in the hands of a pickpocket.